Saturday, 9 November 2013

THE X-FILES, 1.4 - 'Conduit' - alien abduction

Saturday, 9 November 2013


Mulder and Scully investigate the abduction of a young girl, which Mulder believes has an extra-terrestrial explanation because her mother witnessed a UFO in the 1960s...

As a follow-up to the excellent "Squeeze", I think CONDUIT was an odd choice, given it's the third alien/abduction story in four-weeks. I understand aliens are the backbone of the X-Files mythology and a cornerstone of Mulder's (David Duchovny) personal belief system, but I would have thought the show would be playing more cards this early in its history. If you'd missed "Squeeze" back in '93, chances are you'd be thinking this show's just doing weekly variations on the same idea.
MULDER: This is the essence of science: you ask an impertinent question and you're on your way to a pertinent answer.
This week, a family camping at the edge of Lake Okobogee in Iowa are apparently visited by aliens that abduct Ruby (Taunya Dee), the daughter of erstwhile UFO witness Darlene Morris (Carrie Snodgress). Mulder and Scully (Gillian Anderson) arrive to investigate after reading about the case in a tabloid newspaper, and it soon becomes clear that Darlene's young son Kevin (Joel Palmer) has also been affected by his brush with the paranormal: demonstrating the ability to write a stream of binary code on sheets of paper that are top-secret NSA satellite transmissions.

It's an interesting enough case with its own merits and enjoyable flourishes (the barman with the burned ear, the stone heated into glass near the lake), but because "Pilot" and "Deep Throat" covered similar ground I found this hour a little ho-hum. That said, there were some lovely touches and fun moments—the best being Scully noticing that little Kevin's sheets of binary code, when viewed from above, form a mural of his missing sister. As a 'creepy child' episode, this hour probably had more merit than the alien stuff.
MULDER: How can an eight year-old boy who can barely multiply be a threat to national security? And people call me paranoid.
It's also an important episode in the sense that the pretext of Mulder's interest in this case is revealed to come from his own experience of alien abduction, as Scully's made aware his sister Samantha disappeared when she was twelve and he was seven. Mulder believes she was taken by aliens and has recounted a classic alien abudction scenario under hypnosis, and this has clearly informed his world-view ever since. Not to mention driven him to become caretaker of the FBI's laughable X-Files. So while the case-of-the-week was only of moderate interest to me, writers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon definitely had a solid take on what this case meant for Fox Mulder... and it ultimately enriched our understanding of the maverick, laconic FBI agent.


  • The mural of binary code depicting Ruby's face was painstakingly done by assistant art director Greg Loewen and Vivien Nishy, by hand.
  • Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon would go on to have flourishing careers post-X Files. Most notably, they were both key figures behind 24 and are currently working on Homeland.
  • One humbling aspect of reviewing old TV shows is when you realise actors have since departed. Carrie Snodgress sadly died in 2004 of heart and liver failure while awaiting a liver transplant. RIP.
written by Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon | directed by Daniel Sackheim | 1 October 1993